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India


SC issues notice to ECI on plea to use paper audit trail along with EVMs during 2024 LS elections

SC issues notice to ECI on plea to use paper audit trail along with EVMs during 2024 LS elections

New Delhi, Apr 1 (UNI) The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Election Commission of India on a petition seeking to use Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips with every EVM in elections instead of the verification of only five randomly selected Electronic Voting Machines in each assembly segment of a parliamentary constituency.
The bench, Comprising Justice BR Gavai and Justice Sandeep Mehta, tagged the petition with another similar plea filed earlier by the NGO Association for Democratic Reforms.
In its April 2023 plea, ADR sought introduction of a voter-verifiable Audit Trail in all EVMS across the country. ADR pleaded that the Supreme Court judgement in Subramanian Swamy v. Election Commission of India (2013), where the Apex Court held that “‘paper trail’ is an indispensable requirement of free and fair elections, should be fully implemented in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
A bench headed by Justice Sanjiv Khanna expressed its doubt about ADR's demand for 100% VVPAT verification, saying it will add to the ECI's burden without much significant advantage.
Senior Advocate Gopal Sankarnarayanan and Neha Rathi, appearing for the petitioner, said the ECI should mandatorily cross-verify the count in EVMs with votes that have been verifiably recorded as cast' by the voter through the VVPATs by counting all paper slips.
They also pleaded that the guideline of the Manual on Electronic Voting Machines and VVPAT issued in August 2023 by the ECI be also quashed, as it allows only sequential verification of VVPAT slips, resulting in undue delay in counting of all VVPAT slips.
They argued that the ECI should allow voters to physically drop VVPAT slips in a ballot box to ensure that the voter's ballot has been 'counted as recorded'.
They sought that the respondents make the glass of the VVPAT machine transparent and the duration of the light should be long enough for the voter to see the paper recording his vote cut and drop into the drop box.
The petitioner challenged the guidelines by EC that mandate that VVPAT verification shall be done sequentially, i.e., one after the other, causing undue delay. The petition contended that if simultaneous verification is done and more officers are deployed for counting in each assembly constituency, then complete VVPAT verification can be done in a matter of 5–6 hours.
The petitioner argued that while the government has spent nearly Rs 5000 crore on the purchase of nearly 24 lakh VVPATs, presently VVPAT slips of only approximately 20,000 VVPATs are verified.
The petitioner contended that a large number of discrepancies between the EVM and VVPAT vote counts have been reported in the past; therefore, there is a need to count all the slips and allow the voters to physically drop the electoral slip in the ballot box.
Many such petitions have been filed in the Apex Court from time to time, challenging the authenticity of the VVPATs and EVM machines. UNI SNG AKS SSP

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